This I Believe: Created in God’s Image

By Damian Torres-Botello, SJ

Herradura graveIn a five-part series released the week of March 16th from the National Catholic Reporter, God’s Community in the Castro, a parishioner from San Francisco’s Most Holy Redeemer parish had this to say about his spiritual home: “We don’t see ourselves as a gay community, but rather as a community that’s open to gays. … It’s an acceptance and a realization that people feel OK to be who they are that makes this place different.”

For many LGBTQ men and women, The Castro District of San Francisco has been their home where life can be lived with dignity. As NCR reporter Thomas C. Fox points out in this series, Most Holy Redeemer has been the spiritual center for LGBTQ Catholics living in and around this neighborhood. Much of its current history started in the 1980s when AIDS was taking so many lives. Since then this parish has been the sanctuary for an often neglected and shunned community.

As Catholics, we have a sense of the Church being a truly universal home, a place where all are welcome, as the name Catholic would indicate. Yet within that sense of universality there are many who feel the Church is not a welcoming home for them. Teachers have been terminated from jobs, children with disabilities have been refused sacraments, and many divorced men and women continue to feel unwanted. You don’t have to look hard to find similar stories from African-American CatholicsLatino Catholics, Catholic women, and former Catholics alike. And all of this tension has caused people to leave the church, and in some cases, lose their faith.

Yet here’s the truth I know and believe: I am created in God’s image and likeness, just as God creates us all. It is actually that simple. But sometimes we take that image and likeness and complicate it. That complication created concern for my loved ones as I discerned religious life in 2011 at the age of 33. Some were troubled that I’d find difficulty as a man of color in an ostensibly all-white male order. Others feared I would be forced into the closet after seventeen years of accepting myself as gay. A few friends expressed worry I would not encounter common ground in an order filled with the privileged when I only knew disadvantage. All of their observations and concerns were valid because they not only came from a place of love but through their own experiences as Catholics.

I am more than my skin color, my sexual orientation, and my economic class. It restricts God’s image and likeness if I only see myself as those three aspects. Defining myself purely on what I am limits who I am and how I can be of service. Even allowing these characteristics to dictate my life would prevent me from engaging the world as a wholly integrated human being. Besides, I prayed, and discerned, and made a choice. I made a commitment to live the vows of consecrated chastity, poverty, and obedience because of my belief in Christ, the mission of the Church, and the people of God. I share my struggles openly just as I share my joys. Like my parents did with each other, transparency helps me live my vows honestly so that I am always available to live out my calling as a Jesuit.

That’s the truth that sits within each of us: God made us all in his image and likeness. St. Francis De Sales said, “Be who you are and be that well.” To embrace all that we are—and to embrace each other with that love—is to embrace that image and likeness; it is to embrace God. Thirty-six years of life and my short time as a Jesuit have confirmed that truth. And so I pray as a Church that we discover tender compassion for each other to love the God that dwells in us all.


About Damian Torres-Botello, SJ

After doing time in Leavenworth—at University of Saint Mary, that is—Damian became a theatre artist in his hometown of Kansas City (the Missouri side) and Chicago—mostly playwriting, but dabbling in acting and directing as well. Between belting showtunes in the shower, contributing his writing to a few periodicals here and there, and managing his own theatre company, he learned to pay his bills by becoming the best administrative assistant, office manager, and events planner ever! Damian entered the Society of Jesus in August of 2012. He currently plays the role of “philosophy student” at Loyola University Chicago and participates in writing workshops at Chicago Dramatists and Second City, but mostly he loses academic battles against every philosopher known to man.

Originally published by The Jesuit Post; re-published with permission of the author.

Herradura, Cuba grave photo by K-B Gressitt.

What am I doing here?

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Not too many moons ago, in a moment of pause, it came to me that my family was wracked with discontent, my thighs had spread to embrace the toilet seat in a big old hug, and I hadn’t a triumph to my name. Other considerations notwithstanding, the triumph thing was my true obsession, despite my knowing the assumption of grand success was an absurd remnant of baby boomer privilege.

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 4.50.32 PMOf good Southern stock, I was birthed between 1946 and ’64, therefore I deserved it all—the dearest of kindred souls, impressive properties exceeding those of my parents, all the tangible and intangible riches befitting my special generation, including stellar, enduring success. I was certain I deserved these things, but I did not have them, and I was experiencing an adjustment reaction to the creeping recognition that they would never be mine. This was a perplexing departure from expectation, as perplexing as those sausage toes that had started greeting me each morning from the foot of my bed and leading me into the bathroom, where I sat on the commode, my swollen feet cooling on the Saltillo tiles, and stared up at a pudgy Fernando Botero figure, dispassionately contemplating her obscured visage in a bathroom mirror.

The computer-generated reproduction had the superficial look of a real painting, the texture of canvas, layers of color, an aged patina. But there was not a brush stroke on the piece; exquisite details had been abandoned to the expediency of mass production; the colors were not true. A gallery owner to whom I had taken a similar picture for framing had known it at once to be a fake, but he was seeing this technology for the first time, and he was dismayed that naïve consumers would think it genuine. I told him I knew it to be a genuine fake. He was not relieved or amused.

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 4.50.54 PMNeither would the framer have been amused by my painting’s male counterpart on the bathroom wall. He was sitting naked on a chest, his be-plumed helmet to his left, his penis hidden by a hairy shin, the sketches of an extra hand and foot floating oddly unattached beside him, unused options that refused to go away; all put to canvas with the same computer fakery as the gal at her morning ablutions. I wondered then, as I do whenever I sit there, why Botero left the extra hand and foot visible. I couldn’t fathom a reason.

But I can’t fathom a lot of things. Why do some people suffer and others not? Why do cats play with their food?  Why does capitalism thrive, even among purported communists? Why do people lie to themselves? Why do Western males wear pants? What the hell am I doing here?

For a moment, having contemplated the hand and foot and life’s other mysteries, I engaged in a bit of self-indulgent despair, enumerating my failures and wondering if there were something else I might have learned from them, some hidden lesson that might have led me to triumph.

Oh, I’ve enjoyed a few successes of minor note. I’ve had some interesting careers, a plurality of husbands, a generous number of enlightening adventures. I produced a bright and beautiful daughter of olive skin and fiery eyes, who, when she was little, would murmur my name as she curled into me, “Mama, mama, mama,” although, now she murmurs, “You owe me therapy for the rest of my fucking life.” Nonetheless, I’ve also managed to avoid addiction, no small feat for the descendent of Bible-thumping teetotalers and unrepentant alcoholics—and a few unrepentant bible-thumping alcoholics.

My family has produced missionaries of various stripes; imbibers who’ve made it to recovery and some who’ve remained in denial; control freaks, who are actually quite competent, so I figure that’s vindication; and escape artists, I, being one of the them. Hell, I moved across the country to limit family encounters to the kissy-face stuff of holidays and reunions, and when one of them called to cheerfully pronounce a move to my vicinity, I felt the sudden need to barf, despite my deep and enduring love for him and possibly due to the fact that he once assured me I would eternally roast in Satan’s hell fires, awash in God’s vengeance for my sins, primary of which was my failure to accept Our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ into my heart and be bathed in his eternal forgiveness and love.

Turns out, heavenly rewards, at least for Baptists, are available only on a quid pro quo basis, and this blew the proposition for me: Because the Baptist god predestined my salvation, or condemnation, I figured it didn’t matter if I opted out of having Sweet Baby Jesus to tea. Hence my scheduled rendezvous with Satan, who, truth be told, is a lot more interesting a character than the Christ on whom I was reared.

Except there is no truth, per se. Baptists are too tight-assed for truth; it just sucks the broomstick in farther. And proper Southerners hold social graces in much higher esteem than truth.

But I, the family heathen, have found expulsive expression far more to my liking, and sitting there that morning on the throne, waiting for my toes to cool, I decided I had undermined my best intentions, my highest hopes for success—deserved or not—by allowing my heritage to temper me. I had abandoned the exquisite details of life to the expediency of some semblance of family harmony, my colors were not true. I was stymied by the grip of a mighty sphincter, a Botero woman, insulated in her rotund figure, identity obscured, caught in static indecision at the bathroom mirror in perpetuity. I had resorted to writing fiction, to skirt my familial bonds, hide beneath some camouflage netting, and produce a triumphant recasting of our tragic decline. But the truth kept rearing its head, demanding to be heard, like the artist’s unattached hand and foot refusing to fade into the background.

That morning, then, my bowels relieved, my thighs un-wedged from the toilet seat, I brushed my teeth and decided, I decided I would just write, write whatever I’m compelled to write, triumph or not. And that, I suppose, is what I’m doing here.


Republican candidates possessed by demons

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

A whimsical poll report last Tuesday by Public Policy Polling (PPP) has turned into a stunning revelation that is sweeping the nation: Republican candidates are possessed by demons. And according to some experts, that belief “explains it all” for distraught voters.

The light-hearted Halloween poll of 1,200 likely voters, an innocuous diversion from the brawling punditry that has become U.S. politics, found that 62 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the fanciful holiday, but not so of human nature.

PPP reported that 68 percent of Republicans believe in demon possession, a belief proclaimed by some to be a manifestation of voters’ subconscious awareness that many of their elected representatives are evil.

“The data reveal what so many voters have been feeling deep in their hearts, but have not been able to articulate,” said Dr. Phil, popular television show host. “For them, demon possession explains it all — their representatives aren’t that bad on their own. For example, the absolutely crazy-hateful stuff male Republican candidates have been saying about women, homosexuals, welfare recipients, immigrants — and our first African-American president — all that hate has filled voters’ psyches to the point of overflowing. What we see here is a plea for release from the evil for themselves and their politicians, a healthy scramble to escape campaign Hell.”

Some experts chose to remain silent and let the revelation run its natural course, including Celinda Lake, a leading strategist for the Democratic Party, who refused to comment on the poll numbers. But an unnamed source in her office said that, upon hearing the news, she leapt from her desk and clicked her heels in the air.

Meanwhile, to the surprise of many political observers, one leading Republican strategist indicated an acceptance of demons walking the earth, insisting that any condemnation of possessed candidates would be a liberal knee-jerk reaction and calling for a kinder and gentler response.

“Our Republican candidates are good men, good patriots,” said Karl Rove, co-founder of conservative super PAC American Crossroads. “But it is clear that they’ve been lured away from our vision of a prosperous patriarchy by seductive demons who are leading them down a steep path of liberal decline. What we have to do now is, we’ve got to pray for the redemption of our Republican candidates’ souls — just like we pray away the gay, we’ve got to pray away the evil. We’ve got to lay on hands, push against the demons, just squash them right out of our guys and shove the loathsome creatures back into Hell’s kitchen where they belong. You know, this all started with that darn apple.”

While the likes of Sean Hannity mimicked Rove’s odd call for redemptive prayer and indicated that he, too, believes in demon possession, other pundits scoffed at Rove’s readiness to anthropomorphize evil. They indicated they were not inclined to forgive those whose ignorance and weak characters have purportedly made them vulnerable to Satan’s minions any more than they are ready to forgive the candidates’ gravely erroneous and dangerous statements on the campaign trail.

One Beltway insider, who requested anonymity, said, “That’s tripe, rancid tripe.” She described the “strategically timed” release of the poll results as a “cynical and desperate RNC tactic to take advantage of undecided faith-based voters’ naïveté and absolve GOP candidates of responsibility for their sexist, racist, classist and homophobic pronouncements. Republican candidates are doing the derriere shuffle along the campaign trail, with both feet in their mouths and their heads stuck someplace dark and dreary. Anyone who believes demons caused that, and prayer will fix it, deserves them.”

Despite more rational explanations for reprehensible republican behavior, even some Washington regulars embrace the demon theory. A congressional aide overheard outside the White House Press Briefing Room gasped, “Oh my god, oh my god! I f—–g knew it! The Reps have been damned by their own perniciousness. No purgatory for those bastards — and that’s the last run I make to CVS for foundation. They can get their tans in Hell!”

On a related note, another poll result reveals an underlying cause of the dismally low voter turnout in U.S. presidential elections (56.9 percent in 2008): Only 45 percent of those polled enjoy watching horror movies.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the 11.9 percent difference represents people who can be lured to the polls with popcorn.


Crossposted at San Diego Gay & Lesbian News and San Diego Free Press.

Ryan dumps First Amendment for faith; does Romney?

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Until a few years ago, I had a neighbor named Donna. Widowed well before she was ready, she plodded on, alone in her leaky house, unread mail and remembrances piling up in dusty corners. We invited her to holiday meals, cared for her dying cat, and, when the 2007 wildfire forced our town’s evacuation, she came with us, enjoying a prolonged pajama party in a small, borrowed apartment, raucous with four women. We ate out, watched movies late into the night, laughed about the yard-waste bag full of adult diapers Donna offered to share with us, found succor for our fears in chocolate and wine and camaraderie. And, while combing Donna’s hair one evening and avoiding a fairly large knob on her head, we learned that she was Mormon.

“They used to say we have horns,” she said, “like the devil. That’s my Mormon horn.” I’d never heard that particular slur, and Donna laughed it off, saying the lump was just a fatty deposit, so I thought little of it — until recently.

When Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, became the Republican nominee for president, I thought of Donna and her easy acceptance of our dramatic situation, of the multitude of our differences, of her simple request for water while we imbibed our wine.

Of course, I won’t vote for Romney or anyone who embraces a fundamentalist interpretation of women’s rights and roles, such as that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, whether long-held or politically opportunist, as Romney’s ineptly shifting positions on women’s issues reveal. Nonetheless, I was relieved that there wasn’t much Internet fecal matter slinging at Romney’s faith.

But Mormon teachings are certainly vulnerable to critique, as they dwell in the realm of patriarchal Christian fundamentalism. When adhered to fully, as the church encourages, they are as denigrating of women as those of many other fundamentalist churches — churches that, by the way, preach that the Mormon church is a cult, which smacks of the pot calling the kettle black, one of Donna’s well-worn idioms.

However, does any of this matter, as long as Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, honor the separation of church and state? Whether Romney is a true fundamentalist or one of political convenience, if he is able to honor a wall between his personal commitment to his chosen religion and his public commitment to the people of the United States — people of many beliefs — does his flavor of faith, or Ryan’s, matter?

In an ideal world, one of rational, collaborative adults, the answer to that question would be “No,” But U.S. politics being what it is today, rampant with fundamentalist lobbies and office holders, the answer is “Yes.” Yes, one’s faith does matter — or, more accurately, one’s ability to separate one’s faith from one’s public service matters. And determining Romney’s ability to do so has become evermore important in light of Ryan’s declaration at Thursday’s vice presidential debate that, in essence, he, like many rightwing politicians, does not accept the separation of church and state, a principle enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Debate moderator Martha Raddatz posed the following to Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden: “We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.”

Ryan: I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life.

Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science. You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born, for our seven-week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, “Bean.” Now I believe that life begins at conception.

That’s why — those are the reasons why I’m pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don’t agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

In contrast, Biden delivered a personal rendition of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Biden: My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who– who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to– with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a– what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the– the congressman. I– I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people, that women, they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor.

The contrast between Ryan’s insistence on battering the wall between church and state and Biden’s commitment to honor it is distinct — and a clear warning of faith-based things Ryan would foist on the nation if he were allowed to continue his pursuit.

I lived next to Donna for 15 years before I learned she was a Mormon. At the same time, I learned she was also the politest of guests in the small apartment that sheltered us during the wildfire. She worked hard to do her share, graciously allowed us to compensate for her physical limitations, joined in the alternating frivolity and consternation, was willing to share what little she had — even her adult diapers. And, she honored her own beliefs without imposing them on the rest of us, as each of us did — for the sake of community, of a more perfect union.

Because faith does matter in this election, it’s important to ask: Does Romney practice his faith as Donna does, gently and accommodatingly, or is he another guest from Hell, like Ryan?

Love, K-B

Crossposted at San Diego Gay & Lesbian News and San Diego Free Press.

What’s wrong with this picture?

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt


Picture this.

A small town café. An eclectic group of folks commune at the breakfast counter, shooting the bucolic shit.

“How’s school?” the older, white man asks.

“It sucks,” says the young woman. “I don’t like the students.”

“Why? Are they Hispanic students?”

“No, actually, mostly white and privileged.”

He doesn’t notice her cringe. He doesn’t notice that she is Hispanic.

And picture this.

A flight home after a hectic trip. A lovely young disciple distracts the businesswoman from her work, hoping to save her soul.

“You have quite a faith there, and you’re bright,” the businesswoman says, deflecting the proselytizing. “You might enjoy the ministry. Have you thought about going to divinity school?”

“Oh, we’re taught that women aren’t suited to being spiritual leaders,” the young disciple says. “Women are driven by too much emotion; men are driven by reason. That’s why god tells them to lead us.”

“It takes some powerful emotions to start and fight a war,” the businesswoman suggests. “You might find men are no more rational than women. And you might find a church that doesn’t limit your freedom of choice.”

“Oh, no, knowing Jesus has set me free! God gives me the freedom to choose to submit to his will.”

She doesn’t notice the dogma that binds her. She doesn’t notice the profanity of her words.

Then picture this.

A dispersing student government meeting about an anti-hate proclamation. A male administrator and a female student cross paths, to his apparent dismay.

“There seems to be a message from the administration that we shouldn’t name the cause of the proclamation. Why is that?” the student asks.

“Oh, that’s the students’ initiative,” he says, sidling away.

“I’m not talking about the students,” she persists, “I’m talking about the administration’s avoidance of naming the problem.”

“Oh, no, no, that’s the students,” he says through his back, scurrying for cover as though the student is the beast.

He doesn’t notice he’s left her to fend for herself. He doesn’t notice the beast is stalking him as well.

And finally, picture this.

A gathering of wingtipped white men at the Value Voters Summit. A Southern Baptist pastor, waxing didactic, introduces presidential hopeful Gov. Rick Perry.

“Rick Perry is a proven leader,” Pastor Jeffress intones, doing the devil’s work. “He is a true conservative, and he is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. … He is willing to stand up and defund that slaughterhouse for the unborn known as Planned Parenthood!”

“Are you talking about Mitt Romney?” the media pounce in a proper flurry. “Are you saying Mormonism isn’t genuine Christianity?”

“It is not Christianity,” the pastor reassures them. “It’s a cult.”

“And he knocks it out of the park!” Perry roars, disregarding the nation’s 14 million Mormons.

He doesn’t notice the slaughterhouse comment. He doesn’t notice the 156.5 million women in the United States he would represent.

What is wrong with these pictures?


Crossposted at San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

Image of Woolworth’s counter by *Kid*Doc*One*


Bachmann a switchblade girl scout?

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt


U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R–Minn.) might not be able to sustain her Tea Party-fueled lead among the perfidy of presidential wannabes, but while she remains in the race, admit it: She makes for good entertainment — in a morbidly fascinating sort of way.

Newsweek magazine’s blatantly sexist cover image of Bachmann, declaring her the “Queen of Rage,” actually elicited a complaint from National Organization for Women (NOW). Yowza, what a coupling! If Bachmann’s campaign lasts, NOW will surely do all it can to otherwise denounce her for her homophobia, anti-women’s and civil rights positions, and bent toward theocracy. But in the meantime, fun, fun, fun!

And the media’s promotion of a catfight, persistently pitting Bachmann against former Alaska governor, 2008 republican vice presidential candidate and Saturday Night Live feeder Sarah Palin — as though they are running a race distinct from the males — is annoyingly inevitable in a culture in which female candidates for our highest offices remain extraordinary and, hence, subject to gendered ridicule by the entrenched patriarchy.

But Palin’s undeclared candidacy seems ever-less a consideration for Bachmann: She barely pulled a whopping 2,000 Palinistas to her nationally-ballyhooed I’m-not-declaring-until-I’m-sure-I-can-win rally speech in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday.

Bachmann at least had the ovaries to declare, but there’s a lot more than brass ovaries to her morbid fascination. The New Yorker’s recent profile, “Leap of Faith,” by Ryan Lizza, did a tidy job of enumerating the oddly extreme influences that have contributed to the Bachmann ideology. One book in particular from Bachmann’s recommended reading list proved even more enlightening than Lizza indicated: Call of Duty, The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee, by J. Steven Wilkins. Wilkins is an evangelical pastor of a breakaway Presbyterian church with passions for maximal fundamentalism and sugarcoated slavery.

Click image to enlarge.

Remember the brouhaha that arose from the August 11 candidate debate in Iowa? The crowd booed when a columnist asked Bachmann if, as president, she would submit to her husband, as she has said, prior to running for president, that she does. The uproar was curious, given her overt declarations of bibliocity (let’s go ahead and make that a word), yet she deflected the question. But Call of Duty — #3 on her State Senate must-read list — suggests that Bachmann’s two-step had a disingenuous spin.

Wilkins’s dedication of the book to his six children reads as follows:

To Matt, Jeremy, Bray, Jordan and Caleb,
with the earnest prayer that they might be true gentlemen

and to Charity,
that she might love, honor and obey such a man.

Poor Sweet Charity!

Wilkins goes on to write that “nothing excels the value of a ‘woman who fears the Lord’ (Proverbs 19:14).”

Yep, real Christian men prefer their womenfolk scared. An entertaining juxtaposition with the frequent suggestions that Bachmann herself is kind of scary.

Wilkins concludes his chapter on the godly wife with, “A good wife is truly the most valuable asset any man can have. ‘Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord’ (Proverbs 18:22).”

Please note that the emphasis on “thing” is Wilkins’. Although suggestive of his objectification of women, you have to wonder if Bachmann has internalized that classic rite of marital tyranny, if she actually thinks of herself as a “thing,” subjecting herself to her slightly loony husband’s questionable will — again, something she previously indicated to a Christian audience that she does. Of course, she might have been pandering to the poor women whose oppression she was promoting, but then that wouldn’t be godly, would it.

It would, however, be interesting to know if Bachmann takes Wilkins as literally as she says she takes the Bible.

Wilkins relates how Lee’s wife, Mary, expressed “great distress” at the lack of seats for slaves at worship services, discouraging their attendance. Did Mary then request that chairs be brought to the room or some extra pews be installed or at least a few hay bales be strategically placed? Nope: “As a result, Mary doubled her efforts in the spiritual instruction of her maid Cassy.”

Although Wilkins touts Mary’s response as indication of her humility, grace and caring heart, it’s actually a bit of a non sequitur, although that’s plenty common in politics. Could we then count on President Bachmann to respond to, say, another hurricane spiraling up the eastern seaboard with a declaration of spiritual disaster in that hotbed of heathenism, San Francisco?

To be fair to Mary, her reaction was in keeping with her era — according to Wilkins and presumably Bachmann. Wilkins, citing revisionist texts as ludicrous as his own (e.g. Time on the Cross, by Fogel and Engerman), writes that “the average slave in the South had a higher standard of living than the average poor white in the region.” He quotes Lee as writing that slavery was “a greater evil to the white than to the black race” and “blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically.” Lee reportedly believed that emancipation required a gradual process over time “for the sanctifying effects of Christianity to work in the black race and fit its people for freedom.”

The clincher from Wilkins and presumably Bachmann: “The two races whose lives were intertwined in the old South were more intimate and dependent upon each other than any two races in any country in the world. This mutual dependence produced an intimacy and trust between white and black races that has seldom if ever existed anywhere in history.” Including the South, you nincompoops! “… In fact, it bred on the whole, not contempt but, over time, mutual respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men give themselves to a common cause.”

That is actually much more disturbing than entertaining. But if you share a common cause for following Bachmann’s nincompoopery, subscribe to Dump Bachmann, a blog that has covered her since 2004, when she was a Minnesota state senator having ousted the 28-year republican incumbent Gary Laidig with a run Bachmann said was not planned. This miraculous faux pas earned Laidig’s recent wrathful description of Bachmann as a “girl scout with a switchblade knife.”

Wonder why NOW didn’t go after that one. …


Crossposted at the Ocean Beach Rag and  San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

What do you mean by that?


By Kit-Bacon Gressitt


“Hey, dude, that’s wack!”

I learned that handy little colloquialism during my first semester at Cal State San Marcos. “Wack,” according to the fellow who uttered it (a comely young man who was conscripted into a women’s studies class) is an adjective indicating that something is not right. After doing a little etymological digging, I found that “wack” is a variant of “whack,” which means “crazy” and is commonly used in conjunction with “job,” as in:

“That guy is a wha—”

“What guy?”

“That guy over there by the thing. He’s a—”

“Where’s there? What thing? What guy?”

“Over there, there! The guy by the thing over there! That guy!”

“You’re a whack job.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, that’s wack!”

Language is so interesting. And sometimes surprising.

Just last week, while following a ”Vote Pro-Life” bumper sticker along Fallbrook Street, I had a moment of surprisal. (Yes, it is a real word, but the OED considers it rare or obsolete, just like the hand-stitched white formal gloves languishing in the back of my sports bra drawer or the— … never mind.)

Now, I had always thought “pro-life” meant just that, as in “for life,” “in support of life.” You know, “life-positive”—kind of like “sex-positive,” another term I learned in school, meaning human sexuality is something to be explored, expressed and celebrated. Apparently, we have to be taught that—c’est domage! Except in this particular context, maybe sex is a rather dicey reference. Do you suppose pro-lifers even have sex? Well, of course they do: Someone is producing those cute little kiddos who hold the mangled fetus posters outside health clinics. But if pro-lifers have sex, they inevitably have unintended pregnancies, and then what do they do?

Oh, yes, right. They do pretty much what other women do. They either have babies or abortions, as in one in five abortion patients self-identifies as born-again, evangelical, charismatic or fundamentalist Christian.

I guess they go to the clinics that aren’t on the picket list that day. Maybe we should picket them, but in a warm and welcoming way. My sign could say, “We proudly serve pro-lifers.”

But where was I? Ah, yes, my moment of surprisal and the meaning of “pro-life.”

The question arose when I was stopped at a traffic light behind a Christian school van bearing the “Vote Pro-Life” bumper sticker. An older woman of ethnic descent, noticeably mobility impaired and apparently of low economic status (only the poor don’t have cars in Southern California, right?), began to jaywalk her hobbled way across the street with a heavy load of groceries in her arms—just as the light changed to green.

Lo and behold, the van driver revved the engine and nosed toward the woman, who, to my surprisal (that would be a misuse of an obsoletism—yep, that’s a real word but also rare), proved she could limp a whole lot faster than I would have thought possible had I not seen it.

I guess the person driving the Christian school van that bore the “Vote Pro-Life” bumper sticker cares only about the lives of babies, not those of old hobbled women. Or maybe the driver was actually a bit more anti-jaywalking than pro-life, and consequently felt compelled to frighten the bejesus out of the errant pedestrian. Or maybe the driver was only partially life-positive but staunchly sex-positive, and was a little over-eager to beat a path home to explore, express and celebrate that latter positivity. Or, dare we imagine, maybe it was the old gal’s ethnicity or gender or age or apparent economic status that gave the driver the heavy accelerator foot.

Certainly, it would be easy to attribute the driver’s action to simple impatience; easy, but rank with disrespect and disregard for the target of the impatient assault. And one of the things I learned well before returning to school is that even the most simple acts we lightly perform on others can be heavy with complex motivations.

Whatever the reason, that driver was wack!


Crossposted at the Ocean Beach Rag,  The Progressive Post and San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.

Supervisor Bill Horn Takes the Cake — Again and Again

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Updated 13 September 2010 and 14 September

Supervisor Bill Horn has firmly established himself as a man of consumptive excess.

I write not of his notable girth, but rather of his carnivorous proclivity for overindulging in the largess of his public office — for his own benefit. Put another way, Horn is one greedy cuss. And, perhaps, a desperate one, as his excesses are nibbling at his seat in an unsure election year.

From blatantly ignoring land-use regulations and campaign reporting requirements (which resulted in a $12,000 “settlement”), and apparently communicating illegally with the developer of a proposed project, to swapping ideological voting blocs for tax-funded grants, Horn is on the verge of following the descent of Representative Randy Cunningham — an erstwhile war hero whose corrupted character crashed and burned in 2005.

Will 2010 be the year of Horn’s self-destruction?

On September 2, Horn was soundly rebuked when San Diego County revoked a controversial $20,000 grant that Horn had designated for Life Perspectives, a self-proclaimed “nonreligious” group that County Counsel John Sansone determined creates religious materials. The organization’s seeming lack of self-awareness is sound argument enough for denying the grant; if it has been intentionally misleading the public, that would be a clincher.

Despite revelation that the nonreligious group is indeed religious, Horn is now attempting to bully the $20,000 back into the group’s fervent hands: He indicates he has helped Life Perspectives amend its grant application to meet County requirements.


Perhaps the County should require grant applicants to demonstrate the minimal communication, budgeting and organizational skills necessary to prepare their applications on their own — independent of the supervisor who reviews and recommends their grants. Such a requirement would preclude supervisors helping prepare grant applications and then recommending and voting to fund those same grants, thus avoiding both the appearance and the actual fact of a conflict.

Nice concept, eh?

Another nice concept would be for the County to develop a responsible method of reviewing grant applications, so taxpayers are not dependent on journalistic nudging to motivate any County oversight.

Consider the case at hand: Horn is now saying he wants the taxpayers’ $20,000 for Life Perspectives president, Michaelene Fredenburg, to write a book.

Say, I’d like the money to write a book, but I’d certainly never consider asking my fellow taxpayers to give it to me. I’m humping for an agent to get it from an actual publishing house — something the taxpayers are not.

Seriously, Horn indeed wants us to fund Fredenburg’s new book, a companion to her previously published book, Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One’s Abortion Experience (apparently self-published in 2008 and available on Fredenburg’s site for $19.95).

It seems Fredenburg made a reproductive choice when she was 18 — to have an abortion — and she has subsequently become unhappy with her decision. I do feel for her. But now she tries to convince other women not to exercise the right she has enjoyed. She says that the resulting “troubling emotions” some people experience post-abortion might require them to purchase her book Changed. And she goes on to suggest “some individuals may benefit from individual or group therapy” based on her next book — the one she wants taxpayers to fund — a “Group Leader Guide for the book Changed, [which] will allow therapists and peer counselors to effectively utilize Changed in a group setting.”

Hmmm, hmmm. I wonder: What’s the County’s cut of book sales?

Or, rather, it would be wise for the County to review Changed, before considering Horn’s recommendation to fund the Group Leader Guide.

Here is some information that might inform the Board of Supervisors’ decision:

– First, a few excerpts from Changed, a “core resource” of Fredenburg’s proposed program, presented with her formatting:

Your emotions may be directed outward
at other people or at God, …

This is all a normal part of moving through the grieving process.

Writing a letter that expresses your feelings to the individuals involved, …
reading the letter to yourself,
and then destroying the letter can be helpful.

As the letter
is torn into little pieces,
imagine the harmful emotions towards others, yourself, or

disintegrating. …

Many people who have experienced abortion find great comfort and hope through the prayers and support of others and in the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness.

Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm.

– The book refers people seeking “post-abortion” help to its affiliated website, which then refers folks to a zip code search function. My zip code, 92028, produced five agencies, all of which are private organizations with noted religious affiliations: Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center, Pregnancy Resource Center – Vista, Birth Choice of San Marcos, alternatives womens center in Escondido and Rachel’s Hope/La Esperanza de Raquel in Escondido.

– Fredenburg has yet to make public any legitimate professional expertise that is relevant to writing a group therapy guide; although, Garry H. Strauss wrote the afterward for Changed. Strauss is a professor of psychology at the evangelical Christian college, Biola University, and a member of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, whose ethical standards derive from the following Statement of Faith: “The basis of this organization is belief in God, the Father, who creates and sustains us; Jesus Christ, the Son, who redeems and rules us; and the Holy Spirit, who guides us personally and professionally, through God’s inspired Word, the Bible, our infallible guide of faith and conduct, and through the communion of Christians.”

All told, it appears that Horn and Fredenburg have neglected to include in their revamped grant application the fact that Fredenburg’s post-abortion healing efforts have the same religious tone as her other pursuits, a tone that is fine in all ways — except that in our country we don’t use public funds for the promotion of religion.

What is it that Horn and Fredenburg don’t understand about that; what is confusing them? Is it the passion of faith, the pursuit of mission, the arrogance of office, the power-addled death throes of a corrupted politician, or the idiocy of a man who simply thinks he can get away with Hornswoggling the taxpayers yet again?

So, dear Supervisors Greg Cox, Dianne Jacob, Ron Roberts and Pam Slater-Price: What are you going to do Tuesday when Supervisor Horn’s recommendation comes before you?


P.S. Say, I hope Horn would be as eager to fund Life Perspectives if it were a Muslim organization, but what do you think?

Supervisor Greg Cox responds: For weeks, my staff and I have been working with Supervisor Dianne Jacob and her staff to put forth a policy change that will institute a series of reforms for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program.  The item will be heard at the September 28th meeting and if adopted, will ensure accountability and integrity in the program and bring it back to its original intent.

Regarding tomorrow’s board meeting, I have stated publicly that I am against Supervisor Horn’s recommendation to amend the grant to fund Life Perspectives.

Supervisor, First District

Note: Horn’s motion died for lack of a second.

Crossposted at The Progressive Post.

Photo of Bill Horn from his County website.
Changed image from

Fallbrookisms 09 September 2010

At Major Market

If that idiot antichrist pastor burns the Qur’an, I’m moving to Sweden — if we’re not blown there first!

On a plate of French fries

They’re speaking to me, they’re saying, “Come on, be a man and eat me!”

On idiots

– You could be nice to her, you know.
– Hey, I invited that nitwit to dinner!

On men

My poor husband: I don’t know what to do for him, other than give him a blowjob.

Read more Fallbrookisms